I have one more college football game to write about! We’ve had a good year (despite going just 1-3 ATS last weekend) and I’m proud to say that we’ve been slightly profitable for most of the 2017 season. This can all change with the national championship game: the math works out that this last pick will determine if my wagers have a positive or negative ROI.
The odds below come courtesy of Bovada.
2017 ATS Record: 49-41
Alabama Crimson Tide (-5) vs Georgia Bulldogs
There’s a dumb stat that’s sticking in my brain, and it’s one ESPN loves to put on the screen. Nick Saban is 11-0 against former assistants. This is peak Dumb Football Knowledge. It basically means that Nick Saban is 11-0 against teams that have fired their head coaches since he established himself as the best coach in the country and the example to aspire to. But still: 11-0. If your *Power 5* team goes 11-0, you’re almost certainly in the playoff.
Some facts that aren’t dumb: Sony Michel and Nick Chubb are two of the best college running backs I have ever seen, and Alabama is still injured at linebacker. Anfernee Jennings is having an MRI on his knee today, likely the most hotly anticipated MRI in recent memory. Shaun Dion Hamilton is still hurt, and spent the Sugar Bowl on the sideline in crutches. Mack Wilson is back, but Dylan Moses likely won’t be. Even as thinned out as they are, Alabama had a fantastic game against Clemson, holding the Tigers to 64 rushing yards and allowing just one player, the quarterback, to record a run of more than 10 yards. There is a stable of unseen, yet top-flight defensive talent in Tuscaloosa that is not to be underestimated.
Clemson does not run the ball like Georgia, though. Very few do. The Bulldogs’ two running backs combined for 326 yards and five touchdowns, and kept up with college football’s best offense in what any reasonable observer will describe as a shootout. We saw how Alabama struggled against Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson just a few weeks ago. It’s not ridiculous to assert that they’ll struggle again with these two.
I want to briefly highlight how good both of these defenses are. Georgia survived Full Baker Mayfield, and absorbed the best that the best could give them. Roquan Smith is a nightmare we’ll only escape when we wake up or he enters the NFL Draft. Alabama has limped on offense all year and made the playoff on the shoulders of giants. The future of football looks a lot like Minkah Fitzpatrick. That’s the thing that really tempts me into taking the points here: I don’t think either of these teams will score more than one touchdown. I think the final score of this game is 12-9 and I will demand a recount if it is not.
Build out the decision tree like this: If Alabama’s defense is hurt–great! Take the points with Georgia and watch Sony Michel run rampant. If Alabama’s defense is healthy–great! Take the points and watch absolutely no football activities take place within Fulton County. There’s a very slim margin of scenarios where Alabama is fantastic on offense for the first time this season and their linebackers are healthy and those linebackers can stop Georgia from scoring enough to cover a five-point spread. Jalen Hurts probably isn’t going to wake up one day this week having taken several more steps forward in his already advanced development. Georgia’s defense spent the second half of the Rose Bowl choking out the Big 12 offense to end all Big 12 offenses; they’re not going to wake up on Monday having forgotten how to deal with a dynamic quarterback and elite running backs. Alabama probably isn’t going to sprout a second receiver for Hurts to throw to — although, come to think of it, they’ve done it before.
The line on this game is growing. It started at +4, it was +4.5 when I started writing this, and when I finished it was +5. There’s something within me that’s deeply contrarian, so seeing bettors move the line this quickly gives me an extra shot of confidence. Go Dawgs.
My pick: Georgia (+5) to cover.